Part-time traveler, full-time running enthusiast
By Rich Palzewic
Many runners have a goal of completing a long-distance event like a marathon — 26.2 miles.
For one Hobart resident, that goal has been shattered.
To date, 72-year-old Henry Rueden has completed more than 1,780 marathon- and ultra-marathon-sanctioned events — all since 1988.
According to the website megamarathonlist.com, Rueden is currently ranked No. 3 on the North American list and No. 10 on the world list.
The lists are updated once a year and are self reported.
“In 2021, I did 115 sanctioned events alone,” Rueden said. “A few years before that, I did 20 events in 20 consecutive days. Keep in mind, I’m no longer fast, so sometimes I walk.”
Rueden’s first marathon was the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 30, 1988.
He said he did the Boston Marathon once, but it was through the “backdoor way.”
“You can legally run Boston by finding a charity and paying them,” Rueden said. “Remember, I’m not fast, so I didn’t have to qualify.”
Rueden has run all 50 states 21 times and is nearing another completed round.
“If you run all 50 states, that counts as one,” he said. “When I do Wyoming again, that will make 22.”
Rueden has also run on all seven continents.
“I completed Antarctica in 1999,” he said.
Rueden spent time in the U.S. Army Reserves and said he always had to be in shape.
“I was fortunate to be able to run four to 10 miles, no problem,” he said.
Perhaps even more miraculously, Rueden has never sustained any major injuries.
“I have no injuries to speak of,” he said. “My joints are fine, and I have a neutral landing (with my foot).
Most people land one way or another with their foot, so I’ve been fortunate that way –- my foot lands level.”
IF Rueden completes two events during a weekend, he won’t run much during the week after.
“It’s more about resting,” he said.
Many marathons have a six-hour cutoff time, so Rueden said it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for him — with his slower speed — to find “friendly” events.
A six-hour marathon equals a 13:43 minute-per-mile pace.
“I haven’t run a six-hour marathon in a couple of years,” Rueden said. “There are several that have a seven-hour cutoff time (16 minutes per mile), so I’ve been doing more of those –- if I can find them.”
Rueden also participates in timed endurance events, like the one a few weeks ago at the Road America race course in Plymouth, Wis.
“As long as you run at least a marathon in the 12 or 24 hours of the event, it counts,” he said. “At Road America, I completed 32 miles. I was supposed to be doing an event in Montana that weekend, but they canceled the race.”
Among 30 runners who logged miles at Road America, Rueden was the oldest participant, finishing 10th overall.
Rueden doesn’t like hills, so the Green Bay marathon has been a favorite of his.
“It’s fairly flat in Green Bay,” he said. “At one point, I had done all the marathons in Wisconsin. But that’s no longer the case — they keep popping up or dropping off.”
Rueden said most of the events he’s done stand out, but the Great Wall of China Marathon in 2001 was unique.
“I did about three miles of the race on the actual wall,” he said. “If you’re not familiar with (the wall), most Americans’ feet wouldn’t fit on (the steps) because they’re too big, so they have to go down the steps sideways. Chinese feet are smaller. The other thing is, it’s very uneven -– the steps are randomly distanced. That was a neat marathon.”
Rueden doesn’t plan on calling it quits anytime soon.
“As long as I’m capable and injury-free, I’ll keep going,” he said.
Editor’s note: An ultra-marathon is considered to be any event longer than a marathon.